Dear Christiane Amanpour
I am writing to react to an interview you hosted between yourself and one of the Ugandan presidential candidates, Hon Robert Kyagulanyi AKA Bobi Wine. For years I have been an avid fan of not just your journalistic prowess but, I to a very large extent believed your network to be one that provided news and not distortions of the truth.
After watching this particular interview, I am left in no doubt that the infamous “fake news” tagline often cited by President Trump (of whom I am not a fan) has been well earned. I was especially surprised by the very biased way in which you prodded for questions leading the viewers to believe that your guest’s proclamations were God’s own truth. Why in God’s name did you not give the other side a chance to rebut any of the accusations or at the very least challenge your guest?
It is not true that your guest speaks for us all. I am a young Ugandan, a peace loving Ugandan and not terribly political. For the majority of us, things can be better and we welcome leaders that propose fresh ideas. Your guest raises matters that concern many of us. But I take issue with the exaggerated state of affairs that he projects.
Uganda is not on fire! It is not in a state of emergency. Any fire that is raging was deliberately set alight by your guest and his supporters who would see the country burn if only to reign over its ashes and have an interview with CNN for good measure.
I can not speak to the fact that he has been denied access to all media in the country and that his only resort is social media. What I know is that as a consumer of Ugandan media I see him on TV every single day, read about him in our newspapers every single day.
His surrogates attend radio and TV talk shows. In fact I sometimes get the feeling that a section of the media has been weaponized against the Ugandan state. There is not a single incident he cited in that interview that has not broadcast on Uganda media and discussed on Ugandan TV extensively.
I am also familiar with his use of social media. Hon Kyagulanyi speaks of the right to free speech and yet does not allow for any freedom of speech on the social media pages that are run by him, in his name or on his behalf. There is no room for discussion.
He has a cyber army of rabid supporters who will employ whatever means to deny free speech. They are abusive, they are bullies and clueless as to what they would do should they, God forbid take the reins of the country. Hon Kyagulanyi fancies himself something of a mix of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Julius Malema, Fela Kuti and Lucky Dube (something of an identity crisis). He is in fact a demagogue that makes President Trump sound like Aristotle and has all the depth of a puddle.
Uganda’s election campaign must be seen in the context of a Covid 19 outbreak. This disease that has even afflicted some of the anchors on the CNN network and killed more Americans than the Vietnam War, the Second World War and all the Gulf Wars put together, is seriously ravaging Uganda. The election is happening at a time when this country has a curfew and some of the border areas are in lockdown; when bars and schools cannot open and when religious institutions are limited in the number of people who can worship God at any given time. It has come at a time when students at universities are unable to sit for their finals and get jobs, and freshmen are unable to start school.
Bobi Wine’s insistence is that none of the Covid regulations that bind everyone else must apply to him. He must transport people, he must congregate, he must address mass rallies. That when he enters an area, the law must be suspended. And nobody in his entourage including himself wears a mask. If Amanpour was covering a candidate like that in an election in America (let’s call him Trump), would Amanpour call him out? (Did she actually call him out) For CNN it is plainly obvious that black lives don’t matter.
Yes the government of Uganda in this political season has also had instances where it has flouted the SOPs or had people congregate and they are called out for it every time and rightly so. An interview about limiting campaign freedoms that ignores Covid, is nothing short of a propaganda piece.
Hon Kyagulanyi is dishonest in his assessment of what happened regarding the so called peaceful protests. It is not true that the protestors were peaceful. It is not true that they were killed because they came out in his support. They were rioters and the riots were not spontaneous. They were planned. If CNN was interested in a balanced story, they would have viewed the numerous videos that circulated on social media as well as those captured by CCTV.
There was a deliberate distribution of old tires which were set alight and used to form road blocks. People were violently robbed. Properties were vandalized and there was significant looting. There are images of women being forcefully undressed, policewomen being hit with hammers. The intention was to create chaos and discredit the government. It is not in dispute that in quelling these riots some security officers overreacted. The Ugandan president himself has stated that the victims of the security’s overreaction must be compensated as well as the people whose properties were looted. He has also ordered that all security personnel who misbehaved must be held accountable. The actions of sections of the security services cannot be excused and must not tolerated. But Hon. Kyagulanyi displays moral cowardice when he fails to confront, illegal criminal and immoral acts done in his name when he describes those acts as peaceful.
Then peace loving people can only wonder what would have happened if it was Hon Kyagulanyi’s men holding the guns. Also would Amanpour have given Museveni such a softball interview?
Hon Kyagulanyi claimed that 100 people were killed which is not true. Maybe that is what he wishes for. He is happy to see the country set alight so that he can have an interview with CNN where black lives don’t matter and say, I told you! He is more than willing to send people to their graves to make a point. If he cared so much about the lives of Ugandans he would not recklessly carry out campaigns contrary to the established SOPs including wearing a mask and in the process, exposing thousands to Covid 19. People will die due to exposure to Covid through his campaigns. HE knows this and does it anyway. He deliberately takes Covid to some of the vulnerable places in this country and CNN cheers him on that he is exercising his right to kill.
It should be remembered that pandemics are not new to Uganda. There have been outbreaks of Ebola, cholera, Marburg and AIDS. Through it all, President Museveni has never shied away from disaster. He especially always earned his stripes in the 1980’s when he led the fight against HIV/AIDS. While many countries denied the magnitude and very existence of the outbreak, Museveni addressed it head on. As a result the stigma was curbed and indeed Uganda’s plight was known to the world and once the danger was identified, it could meaningfully be addressed.
Hon Kyagulanyi had a real opportunity to rise up and earn his own stripes with regard to Covid 19. Instead he has politicized a very real disease. He addresses crowds unmasked, downplays the danger and has been central in spreading conspiracy theories that lead the general population to believe that Covid does not exist and that it is a ploy used by government to prevent him from campaigning and to get an excuse to needlessly spend money.
These are not the acts of a responsible leader and it is distressing that CNN deems it fit to join him in this irresponsibility. We have seen how CNN covers leaders spreading Covid among predominately white populations and how it covers leaders who spread Covid among black dominated countries. We shall not forget.